September 24, 2005

Press Release on Katrina Reconstruction and the Disability Community

Occassionally, when the news isn't getting out there, it is helpful to issue your own press release. See "Hope from an Unexpected Quarter in Post-Katrina Reconstruction: Thought Leadership from the Disability Community."

Hope from an Unexpected Quarter in Post-Katrina Reconstruction: Leadership from the Disability Community

San Jose, CA
September 23, 2005
Scott Rains

Leadership after Hurricane Katrina is emerging from one community hard hit by the disaster – the disability community.

Responses range from the issue of safety to the practicalities of economic redevelopment.

Marcie Roth, CEO of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association notes, "It is nothing short of a crime that people like wheelchair user Benilda Caixeta were trapped in their homes, unable to escape," said. "We must build every new home with basic features that let people get in and out." (Contact: 301-717-7447,

Lodging and accessibility are key to economic recovery as well.

“In 2003 tourism to New Orleans alone brought 8.5 million people, and $4.5 billion into the local economy,” explains Dr. Scott Rains, travel researcher and publisher of the Rolling Rains Report ( “What Katrina has done, amid great tragedy, is faced us with a stark choice. In rebuilding will we literally exclude some people by design?”

An increasing number of experts familiar with the concept of Universal Design want that answer to be a resounding “No!”

Universal Design is a set of seven principles ( outlining an approach to the design of all products and environments. The outcome is to make them as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation. Increasingly common in the home construction and remodeling industry, Universal Design has spawned a new trend in the hotel industry among innovators such as the Dunas Canteras Hotel in the Canary Islands, the Devil’s Playground in Tasmania, Eria Resort in Crete, and Estate Concordia in the US Virgin Islands. People with disabilities have become a sought after market.

Solid business reasons exist for this approach argues Eric Lipp one of the sponsors of the Universal Access in Travel Symposium & Exposition scheduled for Baltimore, MD December 12-14, 2005. Lipp’s 2002 study on the travel behavior of the then 46 million Americans with disabilities revealed that they spent $13.6 billion on travel annually. With the Baby Boomer generation aging and the general population living longer these numbers are due to rise.

But the adoption of Universal Design is not a foregone conclusion in reconstruction following Katrina. Universal Design in new homes and home remodel projects is common in many parts of the US and the experts point to the human costs of failure to apply it to hurricane reconstruction.

"Current housing stock is woefully deficient in meeting the needs of people with mobility impairments," says architect Dr. Edward Steinfeld, Director of the IDEA Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo (716-829-3485, x329,

"Inaccessible houses keep us from entering or leaving on our own," says Eleanor Smith of Concrete Change. "It's illogical to scramble to retrofit existing homes for access and then build new homes with new barriers after the hurricane." (404-378-7455.)

“There is an approach to economic development and disaster reconstruction that addresses these issues in areas where tourism is important,” continues Rains. “It is known as ‘Inclusive Destination Development.’ “

The World Bank promotes “Inclusive Development" as economic and regional development that allows for full social participation of people with disabilities. "Destination Development" is the phrase used by the tourism industry to describe the strategic application of planning, development, and marketing resources to enhance a location as a desired destination for travelers.

"Inclusive Destination Development" means "allowing for the full social participation of people, including those with disabilities." Inclusive Destination Development is "the systematic and strategic application of resources to render a location a destination of choice for persons with disabilities.

Numerous organizations ranging from the Paralyzed Veterans of America, The IDEA Center at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Concrete Change, the National Council on Disability, ADAPT, and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association have publicly urged officials to integrate Universal Design into post-Katrina planning and reconstruction even as they continue to apply their own resources to the task of recovery.


Scott Rains
The Rolling Rains Report

Background and Further Resources


Katrina as a Tipping Point for Universal Design Acceptance in the US

Will FEMA-funded Post-Katrina Homes be Universally Designed? Visitable?

Carnival Cruise Lines & Hurricane Katrina Relief

More on Katrina

Welcome to California, Katrina Evacuees!

Will We Learn From Our Mistakes?

Post-Katrina the Paralyzed Veterans of America Call for Inclusive Reconstruction

National Council on Disability Advises Bush: Mandate Universal Design

Universal Access in Travel Symposium & Exposition

Experts on Disaster Recovery Focus on Long Term Recovery

Anne Finger Reflects on Hurricane Katrina

What is Sustainable in Destination Development?

Further Reading:

Inclusive Tourism: Some Definitions

Architectural Literacy

Getting the Design Right - Inclusive Destination Development

Posted by rollingrains at September 24, 2005 06:56 PM